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Fast and Not-so-Furious U.S. Border Entry Options Fast and Not-so-Furious U.S. Border Entry Options

Fast and Not-so-Furious U.S. Border Entry Options

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has developed a variety of programs to create faster entries into the United States.  As of January 2014, approximately 2.5 million people were enrolled in CBP's trusted traveler programs that provide expedited entry to the United States for pre-approved, low-risk travelers and cargo.  Understanding the programs that are available and who can benefit from them can create an efficient and not-so-furious entry into the United States. 
Global Entry: The Global Entry program allows expedited clearance and entry processing through the use of automated kiosks currently located at 33 select airports and 11 preclearance airports.   Eligible participants present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification and make a customs declaration.  All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before being admitted to the program. 
Trusted Traveler Program: The Trusted Traveler programs are for pre-approved, low-risk travelers through three separate programs: NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST.  These programs allow participants to move quickly through border processing between the U.S. and Canada or travel into the U.S. from Mexico.  These programs require applicants to undergo a background check and an in-person interview. 
  • NEXUS: NEXUS members, citizens or lawful permanent residents of Canada and the United States, are issued cards and have crossing privileges at air, land, and marine ports of entry. The NEXUS program has dedicated processing lanes along the northern border, Canadian preclearance airports, and at marine reporting locations.  Members are issued a photo Radio Frequency Identification card.  
  • SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers' Rapid Inspection) SENTRI provides expedited land border processing on the border with Mexico.  SENTRI has dedicated commuter lanes at Otay Mesa, CA; El Paso, TX; San Ysidro, CA; Calexico, CA; Nogales, AZ; Hidalgo, TX, Bronsville, TX; Anzalduas, TX; Laredo, TX; San Luis, AZ; and Douglas, AZ.  
  • FAST (Free and Secure Trade) The FAST program is available at eight southern and 4 northern border Ports of Entry for commercial trucking purposes.  Citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States, Canada, or Mexico are allowed to enroll in the program. 
In addition, the United States allows expedited entry for foreign nationals coming to the United States for visits of less than 90 days for business or pleasure through the Visa Waiver Program and certain entries within NAFTA.  Please note, these programs are limited to visitor admissions and as such, applicants are NOT permitted to work in any capacity while temporarily visiting the United States.
Visa Waiver and ESTA:  The United States is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, which eases travel by permitting citizens from select countries to enter the United States for less than 90 days for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa.  All passengers traveling by air under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have an approved travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before leaving the country abroad.  Travelers must complete and submit the ESTA application online, record the application number, and make the payment (currently $14.00, if approved).  The Department of Homeland Security will communicate the traveler's ESTA status to carriers, but recommends printing the ESTA certification before heading to the airport.  Passengers unable to secure ESTA certification must have a valid visa for entry to the U.S.
Entries Permitted by NAFTA:  Similar to the Visa Waiver Program, Canadians can enter the United States without first obtaining a visa.  This also means that Canadians can enter the United States for less than 90 days without preapproved travel authorization through ESTA.  This expedited option does not require an application, background check or interview and is only available to Canadian citizens.  Travelers must still establish their eligibility for admission to the U.S. at the port of entry.
While not exhaustive, this list covers the most common types of expedited entry options to make entry faster and less furious.  For more information regarding entry to the United States and other immigration matters, please contact Jenifer Brown, Grace Miller or another member of the firm's immigration practice.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.
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